Recent news on PlayStation Now suggests that instead of the experimental day-to-day subscription model they set initially has now become a month-to-month, and an arguably more attractive, subscription model. When news was rumored Sony would be creating their own game streaming service after purchasing streaming service Gaikai, I began to think about ways something like this could benefit other companies like Nintendo. Some other companies are also hopping on board and leading the charge with their own offerings.
PlayStation Now was not created for this purpose, but many PS4 owners’ have implicitly declared that this service will be their answer to backwards compatibility. These days consumers want a multifaceted machine. They want everything in one box. Personally, I’m old fashioned and I do keep my old consoles, but the convenience factor of revisiting old games is difficult to become upset over. Considering that Nintendo leads in nostalgic bliss and they have a plethora of games in their arsenal, a Virtual Console subscription would rack in a gazillion dollars tops – seriously, the sky is the limit. Nostalgic gamers and new gamers with curious minds would buy into it.
Some of the biggest challenges for Nintendo in regards to the Virtual Console are 1) the time that it takes to port old games onto newer and different hardware, 2) the difficulty of porting these games over, which is a consequence of the time it takes to do so, and 3) the team size and resources dedicated to making Virtual Console ports happen more efficiently. The money gained in a subscription service for the Virtual Console would alleviate all of the hardships that contribute to the challenges listed above. More money means more resources, more resources mean more productivity, and more productivity means that the service will meet consumer’s demand to get these games out faster and in more abundance than in previous years.
The Virtual Console also is currently divided by the different eShops. For example, if The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap (GBA) is for sale on the 3DS eShop, I cannot download it there and expect to also play the same game from my Wii U, nor can I get it for a discounted price, like Wii to Wii U Virtual Consoles as the two are not connected. To reiterate, I cannot interact with this game between devices in any way. No cross-buy, no cross-save – but, if Nintendo were to create a streaming service, which is literally the equivalent of receiving a projected image from a server dedicated to this task, that’d make cross-play, or some extension of it, possible between the Wii U and 3DS. Games being streamed from a dedicated server would allow you to cross-save across platforms as well as you’ll be interacting with the same image (game) across both.
The Purple Spotted Elephant: Pricing and Ownership
The biggest elephant in the room as it pertains to streaming services is that you don’t own what you have access to. You’re simply infiltrating a pay wall to play what you want, when you want to – so long as you’re still subscribed. Nintendo could fix this issue by making these games available to purchase at a discounted price, sort of like what they’re already doing between the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles. Within a Virtual Console application, the game page could have a link that directs you to the eShop game you’d like to purchase, only to be accessed if you are a subscriber. If you’re paying say, $20 per month for the subscription, the game purchase could run an extra $.99 to $2 bucks. If you purchased Super Punchout!! (SNES) on the WiiShop Virtual Console back during the original Wii’s reign, that same game on the Wii U eShop today would cost $1.50, a discounted price of the original price tag of $7.99.
Yeah, I know…that sounds like highway robbery, but let’s face it, those Virtual Console games are already pretty steep. $5 for an NES game? Nintendo pls, but people are buying them left and right. Why not make a more cohesive experience for the overall end-user where everyone benefits?
The biggest benefit of a streaming service of this caliber is convenience and likely a more pleasant interaction between the user and the games.
What Could the Price Ranges Be?
After talking with a buddy about this this morning, we came up with a few ways that would make pricing for a Virtual Console service more palatable.
- The NES, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Sega Gamegear Virtual Consoles could grant you access with a $5 per month subscription fee.
- The SNES, Sega Genesis, and Gameboy Advance Virtual Consoles could grant you access with a $7 per month subscription fee.
- The N64 and Nintendo DS (already available in Japan on Wii U) Virtual Consoles could grant you access with a $10 per month subscription fee.
- Wishful thinking as there is currently no GCN Virtual Console: A Nintendo Gamecube Virtual Console service for $15 per month.
- Access them all for approximately $20 to $30 per month. Or they could Amazon Prime it for a whopping $89 to $100 per year.
FIVE generations of Nintendo games on one device is a mighty tempting offering. As one, hesitant about subscription services, Nintendo up-keeping such a thing would make me consider opening my wallet. Obviously, I’d take the wait and see approach and take note of how often the service is updated. Realistically, Nintendo is in the toddler phases of downloadable content and micro-transactions, as found in small games like Steel Diver and Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, so an undertaking this grand is few and far in between. If Nintendo liked money the way that many other companies do, this would definitely be a way to do it.